IN WORKING-CLASS southern Madrid there are queues for food at community centres and parish soup kitchens. Caritas, a Catholic charity, reports a sur
IN WORKING-CLASS southern Madrid there are queues for food at community centres and parish soup kitchens. Caritas, a Catholic charity, reports a surge in demand for its help. Covid-19 has exposed holes in Spain’s welfare state, just as the slump after 2008 did. This time, though, the government is trying to plug the gaps. Some of the aid is temporary: almost 4m furloughed workers have been getting 70% of their wages paid by the state, which has also made emergency payments to 1.2m self-employed people.
On May 29th the government, a left-wing coalition headed by Pedro Sánchez, approved something big and permanent: a minimum income for those who fall through the cracks. Backdated to June 1st, the new scheme will pay up to €1,015 per month to families and €461.50 to single people who are “severely poor”. (The government defines this as making less than 40% of the median income of €1,050 per person each month.) José Luis Escrivá, the social-security minister and architect of the scheme, thinks 850,000 households or 2.3m people will qualify, mostly women and children.
Spain has long had a poverty problem, partly because successive governments have concentrated on transport infrastructure, in a large and mountainous country, rather than social assistance. Before the virus struck, 12.4% of Spaniards fell below the 40% of median income threshold. In the EU as a whole, only 6.9%…